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RADICAL SLIMMING DOWN OF HOUSING BENEFIT DELIVERY STANDARDS

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By Kate Miller at the Institute of Revenues, Ratings and Valuation annual benefits conference in Harrogate....
By Kate Miller at the Institute of Revenues, Ratings and Valuation annual benefits conference in Harrogate.

The government will issue new performance standards for housing benefit delivery next month - with implications for many councils' comprehensive performance assessment results, delegates heard today.

Shirley Trundle, Welfare, Strategy and Performance director at the Department for Work and Pensions, said there had been much discussion with the local authority associations about revision of the 600 or so performance standards.

The associations agreed the standards framework needed to be slimmed down, but there were worries about the scoring methodology and the effect on CPA. The Benefit Fraud Inspectorate judged services against the standards in its inspections.

Due out in early March, the new standards will be reduced to 19 performance measures and 65 'enabler' measures, Ms Trundle said.

The scoring methodology will give more weight to the things that are priorities for the DWP, such as reducing processing times and cutting down fraud and error.

Asked if there was any truth in the rumour that the government wanted to take housing benefit away from local authorities and give it to the DWP to administer, Ms Trundle said no such move would appear in the DWP's five year strategy which is due out soon.

The department is going through massive change itself, she pointed out. 'I see DWP having no capacity, nor desire, to take on housing benefit,' she said.

Unitary authorities will have to implement the new benefits performance standards within a few weeks, in time for their CPA in the summer.

Paul Howarth, head of the Department for Work and Pensions' Housing Support Division, said the DWP would be running workshops for local authorities on the new performance standards and the scoring methodology.

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